Uzbekistan national under-23s football team square off against UAE side in a crucial Group D fixture of the AFC Under-23 Championship China 2018 Qualifiers on Wednesday night.
After inflicting a 5-0 walloping to Nepal in their group opener, the UAE were made to sweat by Lebanon before Al Jazira's young striker Ahmed Al Attas scored from a penalty, six minutes from time, to nick a 1-0 win in their second game. It was the 21-year-old's third goal in two outings after his brace against Nepal.
The UAE and Uzbekistan are tied on six points after the latter's 2-0 victory over Nepal, adding to their 3-1 win against Lebanon, in their first game. The UAE, though head the table based on their superior goal difference.
With the group winner making the cut for the tournament to be held in China from January 9 to 27 next year, the match at the Tahnoun bin Mohamed Stadium in Al Ain will decide who will punch their ticket.
The UAE are in pole position and the goal difference means a draw would suffice. The five and six best runners-up too will qualify for the tournament.
"We were expecting a difficult match for several reasons. The players exerted themselves in the last match and you have to take into consideration the weather. Lebanon also play very defensively and my players were distracted by the Uzbekistan-Nepal result, so they lost focus due to a lack of experience. These aren't excuses, but we did our best given the circumstances," said Hassan Al Abdouli.
"The Uzbekistan team exerted themselves a lot in their game and I noticed a lot of their players today (Monday) had also played the first match so, they were so tired, they had not been given a break. They need to beat us by a big difference of goals. We have a medical team that deals with issues of tiredness and the players are committed to recovery and sleep. We already know Uzbekistan, we've seen them many times and know their style so we will set a plan for them," Al Abdouli added.
Meanwhile, Uzbekistan coach Ravshan Khaydarov said that they will rectify the errors from the game against Nepal, when they take on the UAE.
"After the first match when Nepal conceded five goals, they prepared very well for us and defensively they were very good. We still controlled the match but couldn't make the most of our chances. I think the only difference today was good defence and goalkeeping from Nepal. I'm proud for what we showed today but now we analyse our mistakes and prepare for the next game against the UAE," said Khaydarov.